So no book review for you this week.
(I’m ashamed to say I’ve had no time to read recently; I’ve been too busy getting ready for Christmas, traveling, watching and rewatching The Last Jedi, looking at Kylo Ren memes, and binge watching Girls. Yeah, yeah, I know I should’ve spent my winter break reading quality literature and lesson planning instead of wasting time feeding a new, inexplicable, and slightly unhealthy obsession with all things Adam Driver, but hey at least it’s been fun.)
To make up for my recent reading-related apathy and lack of book reviews and to capitalize on the end of the year, I thought I’d post a list of my favorite YA books this year. Over the course of 2017, I have read 24 books (But I got Turtles All the Way Down for Christmas and am hoping to finish it before the year ends so I can make it to 25.). The following is a list of my favorites. The books on this list weren’t necessarily published this year (though a couple were), I just read them this year. And each and every single one of them is truly AH-MAZING and impacted me (and have and will do the same for many of my students) on a visceral level. And I’m sure they’ll do the same for you and yours. So enjoy the list and READ THE BOOKS ON IT AND SUGGEST THEM FOR YOUR STUDENTS. IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY. You won’t be sorry you did.
1. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Man oh man. I don’t just love this book, I am OBSESSED with this book. I fell in love with Renee Ahdieh this year (which is obvious once you see she’s got multiple books on this list). Her sensual and sumptuous writing style is amazing, her characters are complex, and the plots of her novels are so freaking compelling. And, in my opinion, The Wrath and the Dawn (her debut novel!!!) is Ahdieh at her best. It’s a retelling and expanded version of the infamous Arabic collection of folktales, A Thousand and One Nights, and is, like the blurb on the book cover says, truly intoxicating.
Ahdieh’s descriptions of the setting, clothing, and food of the ancient Middle East are so beautifully written, Shahrzad, the main character, is a powerful and admirable heroine, the romance between Shahrzad and the evil and misunderstood caliph, Khalid, is one of the best romances I’ve ever read hands down, and the compelling plot, told from multiple points of view, is so unbelievably engaging. There’s action, intrigue, suspense, fantasy, romance, and even a bit of humor. This book literally has it all. And you’re definitely gonna want to read the sequel, The Rose and The Dagger.
2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I’ve already reviewed this one. Check out my in-depth review here.
3. Wintersong: A Novel by S. Jae-Jones
I’ve reviewed this one already too. It can be found here.
4. The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
This is another great Renee Ahdieh one. Set in Feudal Japan, this novel follows heroine Mariko as she disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate the famed gang of thieves, the Black Clan, to discover whether they are responsible for an attempt on her life. Mariko is, just like Shahrzad in The Wrath and The Dawn, a complex and strong heroine, who rallies against the gender expectations of the society and time in which she lives.
The story is exciting and suspenseful and not at all predictable, the action and romance are incredibly well-written, and Ahdieh’s sensuous descriptions of Japanese culture are–once again–unparalleled amongst other young adult authors. Seriously. At one point in this novel, she describes a hard boiled egg in the most delicious way I’ve ever read, and upon reading that part of the book, I immediately stopped reading to make and eat a hard-boiled egg even though I’ve hated hard boiled eggs literally my entire life. The egg was just as gross as I remembered them being, but Ahdieh’s ability to make my mouth water while describing an egg is seriously amazing.
5. I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Like All the Bright Places, this one’s about depression and suicide and packs quite the punch. Cody’s best friend, Meg, has, seemingly without warning, killed herself, and the novel chronicles Cody’s search for answers in the wake of such a devastating tragedy. Forman’s a great author, with the ability to make complex characters you both love and hate. Her writing style in this novel, which drastically differs from that found in her other novels (If I Stay and Just One Day are a few well-known ones), is spare yet poignant. And the mystery of Meg’s death will drawn you in until the very end.
6. A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
The review for this great and not yet released (coming February 2018) book can be found here.
7. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
I have loved the movie (starring Miles Teller and Shaliene Woodley) since I saw it in theaters back in 2013, but didn’t read the novel it’s based on ’til this year. And it did not disappoint.
The novel (and movie) follows Sutter Keely, a charming, charismatic but royally messed up teenager and alcoholic as he meets, falls in love with, and breaks the heart of sweet nerdy Aimee Finecky and comes to terms with his daddy issues and alcoholism. It’s an unconventional and important coming of age story that makes you love and hate the protagonist in equal measure. Tharp’s prose is deep and heart breaking as he chronicles the hopelessness of the teenage experience with a poignancy unseen since The Catcher in the Rye.
8. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
I went through a serious Gayle Forman phase this year, and this was definitely one of my favorites of hers. Just One Day is a coming-of-age story, a romance, an homage to Shakespeare and a travel inspiration. And a really fun read.
Half the book takes place over the course of one day, as the main character, Allyson, meets, runs away to Paris, and falls in love with a stranger she meets on a train. The next morning, she is separated from him. And the second half of the book chronicles the year after their meeting, and Allyson’s subsequent identity struggle and coming of age experience.
I really loved this book. It inspired me to book a trip to Paris (we leave in t-minus 6 months and 1 week!!!!!!!!!) and gave me a new appreciation for Shakespeare. Forman expertly asks questions about identity, expectations, prejudice, and whether things are really as they seem, melding Shakespeare with our modern society in a truly unique way.
9. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A review for this engaging mystery can be found here.
10. Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
I fell in love with Sarah Dessen’s fun, relatable, and compelling coming of age novels in middle and high school, and I will never not love them. Sarah Dessen’s always great, and Once and For All is no exception.
Once and For All is less important and emotionally striking than my favorite Dessen novels are (Just Listen, Dreamland, This Lullaby, and Someone Like You are constantly battling for first for me), but it’s a fun romance and coming of age story nonetheless. It follows Louna, a girl who has loved and lost and stopped believing in love, as she works at her mother’s wedding planning business for the summer and meets Ambrose, a rich, charming playboy who tries to make her believe in love again.
It was released in June 2017 and I read it on a Caribbean cruise, and it is a perfect summer break beach trip book.
So there you have it. The ten books I read this year that I loved, that changed me, and that reminded me of why I love to read.
Read them. Recommend them. And leave a comment and tell me what books you read this year and loved.